Tuesday, July 12, 2016

On Black Lives Matter: A letter to other liberal white people

I have struggled with whether or not to write anything about Black Lives Matter, because the last thing the world needs is another white person centering their voice in the movement. I have had a voice for too long, so before I go any further I will lift up the voices of some folks of color whose words have inspired me.

Nekima Levy-Pounds 

Broderick Greer 

Bishop Michael Curry

The Rev Wil Gafney, Ph.D

The Rev Grace Imathiu

This is by no means an exhaustive list and I welcome further suggestions to expand my reading lists. I have also appreciated the writings of James Cone , Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Michelle Alexander. I encourage you to check them out, familiarize yourself with their work and become conversant about Black Lives Matter and the profound racism that continues to plague people of color in America.

As a white person, I have my voice heard almost automatically. My privilege allows others to listen to what I have to say. So I need to proceed carefully with what is mine to say.

Primarily, what is mine to say is to own my white privilege. I was born with advantages because of the color of my skin. I have never been followed in a store for fear of shoplifting. I have never had to fear for my life when being pulled over by police, I just have to fear for a speeding ticket. I don't have to be expected to speak for my entire race or have my experience be generalized as true for all other white people. I benefit from institutionalized racism. I benefit because I have white skin. I might not like to think that I am racist, but I am racist. Because I unknowingly benefit from privilege in an untold number of ways. Because I am ignorant of all of these benefits. 

Next, what is mine to say is that it is not the "job" of people of color to educate us (white people) about racism.  It is OUR job to educate ourselves. Google Black Lives Matter for the basics. Visit NAACP's website. Check out any of the websites of the people linked above. Ask me questions and if I don't know the answer, we can find it out together.

Generalizations such as "We're all the same inside" or "I don't see skin color" etc, are violent. They erase the lived experience of racism and pain and injustice of people of color. These expressions are said with good intentions, but good intentions aren't good enough. Commit to educating yourself and educating your family, friends and neighbors.

Don't assume that your experience is the same as that of others. I have many family members who are law enforcement officers. I work with police, sheriffs, and detectives nearly every day in my work at the hospital.  By and large, my interactions with law enforcement officers have been positive. I respect the work that they do. I have never had a bad interaction, but I don't know the experience of others. Part of my role as an ally to the movement is to honor the stories of others and to believe what they are telling me. It is entirely possible to respect law enforcement officers and want to hold them to a higher standard and because of the many cops that I respect and work alongside, I do want ALL police held to higher standards.

Don't EVER say, "All Lives Matter."  Period. Don't do it. Our racist culture reinforces in thousands of ways that some lives matter more than others. We are lifting up Black Lives Matter because it is time to uncover the racism that has plagued our siblings of color. This is yet another example of invalidating the experience of so many people of color. As white people, we already know that our lives matter. We must keep proclaiming that Black Lives Matter.

The Kumm-Hanson's visit Iceland: final thoughts and tips

A few helpful tips that made our trip a success: 

1. Get a TEP. This is a portable wifi Hotspot. It allowed us to use our phones as GPS devices. It was $10 a day, with unlimited data. 

2. Make sure you have a PIN for your credit card. Most places were fine with a chip reader and a signature, but gas stations require PINs. This was an afterthought for us, but we are glad we did it. 

3. Go swimming as often as possible. Icelandic pools have precise etiquette: take your shoes off before entering locker room, take a full shower without swimsuit, leave towel in locker room near shower & don't use your cell phone in locker rooms or pool. Embrace it & relax. Pools are the main social spot in Iceland and they are spectacular. 

4. Cash isn't really necessary. We picked up a nominal amount of cash in the airport, but really only used it for tipping drivers and small purchases like coffee. And if you need it, ATMs are readily available. 

5. Bring an eye mask. The sun didn't really set in the summer. Regulating our sleep was a real challenge. It was difficult to go to sleep without the cue of darkness. We also took Benadryl a few nights when we were really keyed up. 

Thanks for a spectacular honeymoon, Iceland. This is Greenland from the air upon our departure.

The Kumm-Hanson's visit Iceland part 7: the Icelandic countryside

On our way to Jokulsarlon we saw the south coast of Iceland. We stopped in the town of Selfoss for lunch, which is pretty much the last larger town in order to buy food or other things in larger stores. Most small towns have gas stations (N4 is the common one here) and there are generally cafes and coffee shops also. 

But there are large swaths of countryside with nothing but stunning scenery and lots of sheep. 

We stopped at Seljalandsfoss. Absolutely breathtaking! 

You can hike behind the waterfall. This waterfall is right off the road, so it's filled with tourists and tour buses. There's a food truck and souvenir shop, as well as basic outhouses. 

Next waterfall is Skogafoss, a powerful and tumultuous expanse of water. There's an epic hiking trail behind the waterfall that allows you to access a glacier. 

This appears to be a popular camping spot. You can tent near the trail. There are clean modern restrooms with showers (think KOA), as well as a tiny town with cafes and hotels. 

This is the volcano that caused a worldwide issue in 2010 and got people thinking about Iceland. 

On our return to the city we stopped at Vik, a town on the black sand beach. 

Vik is a good place to stop for gas or food. There's an excellent restaurant (try the seafood chowder!)  as well as what appears to be an Icewear outlet store (Icelandic woolen items). 

And some random beautiful things to look at:

The Kumm-Hanson's visit Iceland part 8: glacier lagoon and Jokulsarlon

We left the city to explore the countryside at the suggestion of our taxi driver, she mentioned Jokulsarlon, which means "diamond beach".

We stayed at Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon, a brand new four star hotel near the lagoon. 

The glacier lagoon was just beyond the hotel and it was incredible. 

Glaciers calve into this lagoon and flow out to sea. It's possible to take boat tours of the lagoon, although that's not something we did. There's a small cafe and coffee shop also. 

The beach has chunks of ice on black sand which look like diamonds. 

The Kumm-Hanson's visit Iceland part 6: Harpa

Harpa is the positively stunning concert hall/performance space on the waterfront in Reykjavik. There are multiple performance spaces inside. We caught a humorous (and historical) play called Icelandic Sagas, which told the story of the mythology of Iceland.